Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Haist Street Reconstruction Update

Whether you live on it or near it, you might be wondering about the Town’s progress on reconstructing Haist Street.

You will recall that Haist Street is being reconstructed from Canboro to Welland Road all in one year thanks to infrastructure stimulus funds from the Federal and Provincial governments. The Town had initially budgeted to undertake the work in stages over three years; instead we are able to invest 1/3 of the $5.7 million cost one-year only.

Since I had a couple of questions recently about the project’s financing, I want you to know that the Town is not incurring any debt for the project. Also, the project is well within budget and all contingencies are intact.

The contractor – Provincial Construction from Niagara Falls – has divided the project into two sections.

North of Pancake Lane (to Canboro Road), the contractor has already replaced the storm sewers and the watermain. Until mid-November, the contractor plans to attach water services and install new curbs and sidewalks. Staff expect that the base layer of asphalt will be paved in mid- to late-November.

Work in the section South of Pancake Lane (to Welland Road) is more complicated because the groundwater is so close to the surface. Provincial Construction has had to carry on extensive “dewatering” – pumping of groundwater out of the area – so that they can work underground. Staff expects the installation of storm sewers to be completed by mid-October, and the installation of the new watermain by the end of October. In this Southern half, curb and sidewalk work should take until the end of November and that base coat of asphalt should be paved in mid-December.

In the spring of 2011, Provincial Construction will pave the top-coat of asphalt, add sod and plant trees throughout both sections.

Staff meets with the contractor weekly to ensure the project continues to move along. And, while contingency plans are in place, this timeline is dependent on weather.

Finally, we are trying to be as proactive as possible on communication. For example, the Town's website contains biweekly updates. You can view the most recent update – Number 8 from September 21 – by scrolling down on the homepage of the Town’s website at Staff also sent a letter to AK Wigg families on the first day of school about getting to and from school.

While the end is in sight, I sincerely appreciate the ongoing patience of residents living on and near Haist Street.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pelham's "Glorious" Tree

When was the last time that you stood under the Comfort Maple?

A couple of weeks ago, I made a point of driving down the narrow lane off Melter Road in North Pelham to witness and give thanks for the great tree again.

As you may know, the Comfort Maple is thought to be more than 500 years old and is acknowledged as the oldest sugar maple in Canada! It could well have been a sapling when Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue in 1492.”

The tree is named in honour of the Comfort family, who acquired the land on which the tree grows in 1816. Through the years they cared for the mighty tree and in 1946 reserved a plot of land from their farm for it. Then in 1961, Edna Eleanor Comfort donated the land and tree to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in honour of her late brother Earl Hampton Comfort. The Comfort Maple Tree has also been officially designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Comfort Maple stands 24.5 metres (80 feet) tall with a crown that is 38 metres (125 feet) in circumference. The Maple measures 6 metres (20 feet) in circumference at the base. Because of its age and at least one major lightening strike, the tree has been repaired over the years with bricks as well as concrete and guy wires.

With such a distinctive feature in our Town, it’s no surprise that it figures prominently in Pelham’s official symbols. For example, our Town Crest contains the image of the Comfort Maple in full, red bloom of the fall. The tree is also one of the key images on the Town’s new website. And, on our recently launched Economic Development website, the Comfort Maple is the logo for Pelham under the “Niagara Original” marketing campaign.

When I visited it, there was a family – a grandfather, his daughter, and her children – also visiting. (The daughter had moved back to the area and the grandfather wanted to reacquaint them with some local features.) While the wind blew through the leaves and a thunderstorm developed, we each observed how we felt happy, content, and safe under the branches of the huge tree.

For me, the Comfort Maple is inspiring, symbolizes strength and tradition, and calls on us to give thanks; as the interpretive sign reads, “O Lord, how glorious are thy works.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ridgeville Potable Water Station Update

If you have driven by the corner of Canboro Road and Effingham lately, you will have seen some changes to the former private water filling station. I want to give you an update on the work being done.

On June 30, the company that had been operating a private water filling station for more than a decade closed its business. That company had rented the location.

Immediately after the closure, the Town received many calls from rural residents who wanted to know from whom they could purchase safe drinking water to fill their cisterns. In addition, two water haulers contacted the Town about how they could provide safe water to Pelham’s rural residents.

Because of the Province’s stipulations for higher water quality standards, most other Niagara municipalities – including Lincoln, Grimsby, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Welland, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and St. Catharines – already operate their water filling stations.

Staff approached Council at our July 19, 2010 meeting and suggested that the Town enter into a letter of intent with the property-owner to provide a water filling station at that location. Council unanimously agreed and gave authority to develop a lease agreement and begin site preparation.

The Town organized a public open house August 20 to better inform immediate residents and business owners of the proposed changes. Participants were encouraged to fill in comment sheets with questions or comments.

Then, based on the feedback from the community and the plans, Council agreed to proceed on August 23 with a temporary lease agreement (three years) with the property owner. Council was clear that a water-filling station at that location it is not the long-term vision for Ridgeville; accordingly, the Town will use the time to find a more permanent location.

So what is planned?

First, only bonded water haulers that enter into an agreement with the Town can use the station. This will allow us to stipulate the hours of operation – from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM weekdays and 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on weekends – and ensure that the Town is paid in full for water usage. We can also stipulate the traffic route, that vehicles do not idle while filling, and the type of trucks are used so the roads don’t get torn up. (These items cannot be regulated with private operations.)

Second, since the number of Pelham residents who require delivered water has not changed, we don’t anticipate an increase in truck traffic.

Third, the existing site will be paved, additional parking spots for Ridgeville shoppers will be added, and the water spout will be of the latest, safest technology.